How to Safely Wash a Sweater
1. check the Care Label.
Whether cashmere, acrylic, cotton or silk, a sweater can not only
survive the laundering process - it can even come out looking good and feeling clean.
If it says "Dry Clean Only" - the last word being the key here - stop. You must send it to the cleaners.
However, if it says "Dry Clean" - without the "only" - you can usually wash it safely at home.
Yes, these cotton and wool treasures are a little harder to care for at home than most of our clothes.
They can shrink;
stretch; they can even (heaven forbid but they do) pill. And the softer the fabric material, the more carefully we need to car for it to prevent these unwanted changes in its appearance.
2. Wash by fiber type.
There's no single washing routine that's going to work for all sweaters. Not because of the type of clothing it is - but because these cozy pullovers can be made of anything from wool to cashmere to silk.
Each of these fabrics require a different cleaning solution, a different wash temperature or method (such as hand-washing for cashmere), and drying routine to keep its surface sheen and color intact.
Some can be machine dried on low-heat; others, like wool - will shrink to fit your little nephew if you popped it in the machine. Instead, they need to be laid flat to dry.
Here's how to wash sweaters by fabric:
- Acrylic: Acrylics are man-made fibers that can stretch when
subjected to heat. Wash as directed on the label - usually in warm
water. Then either lay flat to dry or tumble dry on low.
- Angora: Angora is a blend of rabbit hair and synthetic fibers. It's very prone to
so this is one you should consider dry cleaning. If the label says it can't be washed, don't put it in the machine. Instead, hand-wash and lay flat to dry.
- Cashmere: Cashmere is usually goat hair blended
with wool or synthetic fibers. Follow the label instructions as they're
usually pretty accurate. Generally, cashmere can be washed on the delicate cycle in cold water. Roll it in a
towel to squeeze out excess water. Gently reshape, and lay flat to dry away
from sunlight or direct heat.
- Chenille: If you want chenille to stay soft, don't put it in the washing machine - even if the label says it's OK. The
rubbing caused by the machine's agitation damages and breaks the
fragile fibers, causing them to and snag, pill, or feel rough. Instead, wash chenille inside out by hand. Lay flat to dry.
- Cotton: Unlike sturdier garments, these cotton pieces are best washed in cold
water, not warm. Use your machine's gentle cycle to prevent any fiber
breakage. Lay flat to dry.
- Silk: As long as it
isn't beaded or have any other hand-stitched decor, most silk can be
safely washed in the machine on its delicate cycle in cold water. Lay
flat to dry. It may needed ironing afterward, however.
- Wool: Some wool can be washed; others can't take the heat (or even the cold water). Start by checking the label. If
it is OK to put in the washing machine, use the gentlest cycle on your
machine, choosing cold for the wash-water temperature. Don't twist to
remove excess water; wrap in a towel instead. Lay flat to dry.
3. Washing and Drying Tips.
Always turn sweaters inside out to reduce pilling. (Those little fuzzy balls
or bits of fluff that show up on the surface are called "pills", and are the
result of fiber agitation in the washing machine, which can cause them to break).
To prevent this, wash in an extra-large mesh bag. If
hand-washing, remove excess water by rolling in a towel. Don't wring -
you'll do the same damage to the delicate fibers as a washing machine.
- Drying: Dry on low heat and remove the garment when it's almost - but not
fully - dry. Finish drying by lying it flat on a clothing rack or
horizontal surface covered by a towel.
- Pilling: If
pilling does happen, the best way to remove it is to gently shave the
surface with a plastic safety razor. But very, very gently.
- Storage: Don't put away a sweater dirty. This makes it more attractive to
pests. Also, some stains may set. Once clean, fold to store it. Don't hang
it, as this may cause it to stretch out of shape.
- To make
sweaters last longer, air them out at least 24 hours after wearing. Fold and store out of direct light.
About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.